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Gear Reviews

Sigma DP1 Quattro: Surprising On The Inside, Unique On The Outside

By Anthony Thurston on November 27th 2014

I recently got my hands on Sigma’s new DP1 Quattro, featuring the company’s latest incarnation of their Foveon technology in the X3 sensor. I have been intrigued by this technology, and by the unique design of these cameras for a while now. These are my initial thoughts on the DP1 Quattro.

sigma-dp1-quattro

Initial Impressions of the Sigma DP1 Quattro

As you can see, and no doubt have seen, the Quattro series (not just the DP1) is probably one of the most uniquely designed camera bodies in recent memory. I was really not sure what to expect when I first picked up the camera, but I am happy to report it is not nearly as bad as you would think. That said, it isn’t exactly comfortable either.

The fixed 19mm F/2.8 lens is equal to 28mm (35mm full frame equivalent), a perfect focal length if you ask me, because it’s wide without being so wide that you have a ton of distortion. It is a body/lens combination that is great for environmental or group portraits, and even some landscape work (though really it could be wider for that use).

sigma-dp1-quattro-initial-impressions[REWIND: Sigma Halts Production on the 24-105mm F/4 Art]

The one aspect of the camera that I am not fond of to this point, is not the unique design, or even the fixed 19mm lens. No, the thing that annoys me most to this point is the workflow involved. You see, Sigma’s Foveon RAW files are not readable in Lightroom, Capture One, or any other editing software besides Sigma’s proprietary processing software. It adds a whole other step to my workflow because I have to load the images up in the Sigma software one by one, and then export as a Tiff so that I can edit in Lightroom like I normally prefer.

Once you get the files into Lightroom though, it is easy to see that the image quality is stunning. The image that you see below is a newt that I came across on a little nature walk. The detail, and sharpness that you an get out of this body is impressive.

sigma-dp1-newt

ISO 400, 1/125th, 19mm @ F/2.8 on Sigma DP1 Quattro

So, overall, my initial impressions are good. There are definitely some quirks to working with this system, but from what I have seen so far, the quality is definitely worth at least giving the system a shot.

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks while I finish up my time with this review unit and then publish the full review. Until then, for those of you who are interested, you can get a great deal on the DP1 over on B&H.

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Barry Cunningham

    Why no LR support?
    Is it just because it is a new camera and Adobe has not yet added the RAW support or is there some other issue?

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    • Paul Monaghan

      There as been no LR support since the Merrill range of cameras, the sensor uses a totally different way to render images and as such takes much more work to integrate into 3rd party software unlike traditional bayer sensors even the fuji xtrans which for the most part are all very similar.

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    • Stan Rogers

      Two reasons, really.

      The first is that the raw files are distinctly different from anything you will get out of any other camera. It’s not just a different internal format, or some wonky encryption, or anything like that; the actual information is nothing like anything else. (And the Quattro files are even further from “normal” than the older Foveons were, since the luminosity (blue) channel has a different resolution from the red and green channels). Since the Foveon doesn’t use filters for colour separation (it uses the photons’ penetration depth, which depends on their wavelength), colour synthesis isn’t just a matter of mixing the red, green and blue channels; there’s a lot more “fuzziness” in the computation. Lightroom is built to work with full RGB (TIFFs, JPEGs, etc.) and more normal raw files (which are monochromatic images that have accompanying translation matrices that basically describe the colour filter array’s characteristics, antialiasing filter (if any), etc.), so supporting a new camera that uses a colour filter array means basically doing the same math a little differently. Making pictures out of Foveon raw files means doing different math altogether. (And, judging by SPP’s performance and the lower-quality colour of the in-camera JPEGs compared to SPP’s output, it’s not easy math either.)

      Which brings us to reason number two: the market for Sigma support isn’t huge (and unless they can get a DSLR up and running at a reasonable price and with reasonable performance, it probably never will be) but the software development effort required to support the Foveons would be huge. When last heard from, neither Adobe not Phase One had plans to add support.

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  2. Paul Monaghan

    Just a heads up Anthony but sigma have added batch editing to the latest version of sigma photo pro so you no longer have to go through the files one by one, you can even save a preference and have it batch edit a bunch of using it that. Its a little clunky doing this as you have to close the image preview and highlight the images in the gallery section then goto save the files and then select your options.

    It’s still an extra step in the work flow but its much better than going though the images one by one although if your shooting in different lighting situations then you might still want to tweak each image to get the most out of it before exporting to tiff (as you lose a lot of info doing that mostly the highlights), I generally try to recover as much as I can in sigma photo pro even giving myself a low contrast image and then use the 16bit pro photo tiff as my raw file.

    I hope this helps you some and sorry if you already know this.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Thanks Paul,

      I was aware of the batch processing, but like you mentioned, in varying lighting/conditions its not an ideal solution.

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    • Paul Monaghan

      True Anthony, its not ideal but its much better for me as it as the case that I had to open each image then change settings and finally export as a tiff so its a major bonus to my work flow when I’m doing studio or location shooting with strobes (as I’m in control of the lighting mostly.)

      To be honest, I’m still using the Merrills mostly which are even slower than the Quattros and I feel the fact the cameras are slower, with large files that require more work than normal make me think more about what I’m doing and I enjoy the shooting experience more.

      You could also try shooting in small raw mode in which you get a true x3 capture (as its bins 4 pixels on the top layer to match the others) at 4.9mp, some people really enjoy the images more and you get a much faster shooting and editing experience.

      For web and small print size sizes (a4 to a3?) it should be fine, at the full rez mode I’ve had great 30×20″ prints.

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